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Woodfin Urges Committee to Hold off on New Policing Software

By Danielle Merrill

Photo: Livestream of Public Safety Committee Meeting

Mayor Randall Woodfin asked the public safety committee to hold off on voting for a new police software contract during Tuesday’s committee meeting.

“There’s been a lot of discussion on social media today regarding a Motorola contract we have, and specifically around the area of facial recognition,” Councilman Hunter Williams said.

The new software proposal has been criticized from groups such as Black Lives Matter and People’s Budget Birmingham due to the fact that it could be used to target minority communities, according to CBS 42.

“We’re gonna put a pause on it, a very short pause,” Woodfin said.

The Mayor said that many of the devices that the Birmingham Police Department use when responding to emergencies date back to the 1980s, showing a lack of new technology.

“In my left hand, it is important that we stick to the values of being efficient and effective, that we’re transparent, and we hold our officers accountable for how they engage the community,” Woodfin said,”and in my right hand, I think it’s important that we provide the necessary tools to be in a position to do the following things I just described.”

Woodfin said laptops used in investigative settings as well as patrol-related technology such as updated tasers and body cams need to be updated in order to strike a balance between being efficient and effective.

“One of the things that people are speaking to is facial recognition,” Woodfin said, “I want to be explicit to you as it relates to this contract that’s before you, it does not do anything towards facial recognition, and I just want to state that for the record.”.

BriefCam would ultimately take Birmingham’s ShotSpotter technology, camera systems and police body cameras and integrate them into one screen by using all of the data in one interface, according to a quote from Williams from CBS 42.

Woodfin said the BriefCam integration is needed in order to move the police department forward.

“That being the case, there’s a bridge here, and I think that this is the most important part I want to speak to you all about. The bridge is trust. I think in the age we’re living in now, I think what’s really important between both is that we build trust,” Woodfin said.

Woodfin said building trust between the community and the police department is not an easy process, and that it’s not something that can be fixed overnight.

“Let’s just make sure we continue to put factual information out there,” Woodfin said.

The council did not vote on the new police software.

In other business, the board approved:

The public safety committee meets every 1st and 3rd Tuesday of each month at 3:30pm on the 3rd floor of the City Council Chambers.

Edited by Hannah Warren, Ryan Michaels & John H. Glenn

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